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Smoking is an addiction that is hard to break. But don't be discouraged: you can do it!

Everyone who quits smoking gets back time, health, and money, no matter how much or how long they have smoked.  

Nicotine: Your Worst Enemy

Nicotine is the main ingredient in cigarettes. After you inhale a cigarette (or other tobacco product), nicotine gets to your brain within a few seconds. There, it releases a flood of chemicals that give you a high.

When you stop using tobacco products, nicotine withdrawal can begin within hours. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability, frustration or anger
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Increased appetite or weight gain
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • ...and of course, a craving for cigarettes

Many people think that smoking relieves stress. In fact, the opposite is true. Smoking creates stress that can only be relieved by smoking another cigarette.

Learn more about nicotine addiction.


There are two types of medications that can help you quit tobacco use: nicotine medications and non-nicotine medications.

Nicotine Medications

The nicotine contained in quit medications is in much smaller amounts than in tobacco products and without the harmful chemicals that can make you sick.  

Over the Counter:


Non-Nicotine Medication (Prescription)


Studies show that combining medications, such as the nicotine patch and the nicotine lozenge, can increase your chances of quitting.

Learn more about how to choose a medication.

Medications can be especially effective when combined with counseling and support. The Pennsylvania Free Quitline provides free quit coaching in several languages and provides quit smoking medications at no cost.

Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).


Frequently Asked Questions


How do I choose the right medication for me?

Most smokers will get help from any of the medications listed above. However, each smoker will have a different experience.

Some medications may be more helpful than others, depending on how often you smoke, how much you smoke, how you’ve tried to quit before, or how your health is now.

If you can, talk to your doctor before starting any new medications. For medications you can buy in the drug store, read all of the information on the box carefully.

Here are some things to think about as you decide which medication to choose:

  • Nicotine patches are easy to use and you only have to put one on a day.
  • Nicotine gum, lozenges, and inhalers let you control how much nicotine you get so you can help control your cravings.
  • Nicotine nasal spray works fast to stop cravings when you need it.
  • Nicotine inhalers let you keep the feeling of cigarettes by holding the inhaler and puffing.
  • Both inhalers and nasal sprays require a doctor’s prescription.
  • Buproprion (Zyban) is a pill taken two times a day, is very safe, and helps with cravings.
  • Varenicline (Chantix) is a pill taken two times a day and may work very well for heavy smokers.

Learn more about how to choose a medication.


How much do nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) cost?

  • The Pennsylvania Free Quitline provides quit smoking medications at no cost.  Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
  • If you have health insurance through Medicaid, you may get nicotine gum, patches, lozenges, or other medications to help you quit for as little as $1 a month.
  • If you have private insurance or Medicare, call your insurance company for more information.
  • Under the Affordable Care Act, many insurance plans should cover smoking cessation services, including counseling and medications.  For more information, call the member services number on your insurance card.



Are nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) safe?

NRTs are very safe. NRTs have been used by millions of people to quit smoking successfully and safely.

NRTs will NOT cause:

  • Heart attacks
  • Impotence
  • Cancer
  • Hair loss

In fact, you are more likely to get these if you continue to smoke! You should talk to your doctor before starting NRTs if you:

  • Have had a recent heart attack
  • Have an irregular heartbeat
  • Have uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Are under the age of 18, or
  • Are pregnant

Learn more about how to choose a medication.

Are nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) addictive?

You will not become addicted to NRTs if you use them the right way.

Addiction is based on how fast the nicotine gets into the body. NRTs release nicotine very slowly. Cigarettes send nicotine to the blood and brain very quickly.

While NRTs take away some of the urge to smoke, they do not give the same feelings of pleasure as cigarettes.

Learn more about how to choose a medication.

My friend could not quit with NRT. How do I know it will work for me?

Quitting smoking is different for everyone. Two people can use the same type of NRT—such as nicotine gum—and have very different experiences.

Set the date you want to quit and make a plan for yourself on how to do it. If you are going to use NRT, pick one that you are comfortable with and know how to use.

Your quit plan can also include other things besides NRT, such as exercise and diet change.

Learn more about how to choose a medication.







Get Healthy Philly is a project of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and is made possible, in part, by funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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